Duke (17-2) is back, both in form and in health.
In a hostile environment at the Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana, the Blue Devils will be able to put their full force back into action tonight against Notre Dame (11-9).
This mainly due to the return of point guard Tre Jones, who has been out for three games because of a separated shoulder that he suffered two weeks ago. The reason why this returns Duke back to full force is mainly due to Jones’ defensive play, it allows the Devils to apply more full-court pressure against opposition.
Duke has became lethal again with Jones regaining his health, and he’s also stated that there were no issues with his return in a 66-53 victory over Georgia Tech either. Tre Jones is ready to go, despite tonight being the second game in three days.
After a hard commitment to his rehab process, Jones was able to make a early return against the Yellow Jackets where he would tally six points and four assists in 35 minutes.
But the Blue Devils will have to make some minor tweaks to their offensive game, they scored a season-low 66 points in the game against Georgia Tech. In Duke’s defense, however, GT’s ‘D’ has been solid this year: They rank 22nd in the country only allowing 63.6 PPG against them.
The offensive game will work itself out though for the Blue Devils. When Jones was out due to injury, RJ Barrett took over the duties at the point guard position. Though he didn’t halt his scoring production, Barrett will be able to focus on just scoring alone now with Jones back — this making Duke’s offense even more potent.
For the season, Barrett has 16 games scoring at least 20 points. He had 24 points in the victory against Georgia Tech. In the ACC, Barrett ranks first in scoring with a tally of 23.9 PPG. His teammate Zion Williamson is second in the conference at 21.7 PPG — he’s shot an unbelievable 42-of-61 in the past four games.
The Blue Devils are dealing with an injury issue with big-man Marques Bolden, who is currently suffering from a toe ailment. Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Bolden’s injury isn’t serious, but it is painful to deal with.
For the Fighting Irish, they’re coming off of a dismal 27-point blowout loss to the University of Virginia on Saturday. Now after facing the No. 3 team in the nation just two nights ago, Notre Dame now squares off against the No. 2 Blue Devils tonight — not the most healthy of circumstances to get out of a four-game losing streak that ND is currently on.
There’s a silver lining for the Fighting Irish though: Their forward John Mooney has compiled a total of six straight double-doubles, this bringing his mark to now 12 for the season — that leads the ACC. Against UVA, Mooney racked up a solid 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Other than that, there hasn’t been much else to cheer about for Notre Dame. They’re currently 1-3 at home with Duke now coming into town — at least it will be another sellout for the Irish.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
CHECK THE NUMBERS
As you would expect, the Blue Devils come in with all of the statistical advantages over Notre Dame, and they’re all pretty solid for the most part. On the offensive side, Duke has been absolutely potent this season averaging 87.4 PPG — that’s +14 over ND. In field goal percentage, the Devils tally 48.2 FG%, a +8 edge. In another advantage for Duke, they’re +4 over Notre Dame in rebounding compiling 42.9 RPG. And on defense? You guessed it. Another hold for the Blue Devils, this time +3 with 66.2 PA on the stat sheet. Just elite numbers.
Homecourt advantage is the only edge that Notre Dame has tonight, because the struggling 11-9 Fighting Irish lack in all statistical categories when compared to Duke — and it’s not pretty. In points production, ND has been lackluster with a 73.1 PPG tally, and that’s a -14 disadvantage when compared to the Blue Devils. In shooting, they’re -8 with a dismal field goal percentage of 40.7 FG%. On the glass, yet another negative — this time -4 with 38.6 RPG. Notre Dame also has a -3 disadvantage on defense, but not that bad with 69.4 PA.
Sorry, Irish fans. I’m placing Notre Dame on blowout alert tonight, but I’m sure you’re not surprised considering the star-power of the Blue Devils. The presence of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett alone would be enough to guarantee a blowout, and now the Dukies want to throw Tre Jones back into the mix. This spells major trouble for the Irish.
First off, Notre Dame will have a hard time figuring out a way around the Blue Devils’ full-court press that will be applied for the majority of the game — and it’ll be even tougher with their 40.7 FG%. And not just that: Even though ND’s defense isn’t too bad, it’s not at the level to keep up with an offense led by Williamson, Barrett and Jones. Duke gets the win easily, but can they cover the -14.5 spread?
I’d bet yes. With Tre Jones back for the Blue Devils, Duke’s defense will be back in a lethal state — Notre Dame will feel that force tonight. Not only will points be hard to come by for ND, but it’ll be nearly impossible to stop the offense of Duke. The Devils cover the spread by blowing out the Fighting Irish, and not just blowing them out, but hitting the 20 mark winning by 21.